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Four families honored with Carnegie Medal for 'enlightened giving'

20071018rd medal01_500They were lauded for giving hundreds of millions of dollars for causes ranging from education to the sciences, in places that stretch from Pittsburgh to India.

But the four recipients of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy did not take the opportunity to pat themselves on the back yesterday. Rather, Eli Broad and representatives of the Heinz, Mellon and Tata families said they were happy to have helped where they could, and two of the honorees called for others to give, even in increments as small as $25.

This was the first time that the awards named for industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie were given in Pittsburgh, where he made his fortune. Former NBC newsman Tom Brokaw served as master of ceremonies, and former President Bill Clinton provided videotaped congratulations.

"Never have so many people accumulated such great wealth," Mr. Brokaw said, referring to capitalists around the world. "And with great wealth, of course, comes great moral responsibility."

The public ceremony, wrapping up two days of events, took place at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. The awards are held every two years, with past recipients including the Rockefeller and Gates families. Nominations are made by more than 20 organizations bearing the Carnegie name.

Mr. Brokaw praised this year's recipients for their "enlightened giving" and called them "role models" of philanthropy. At least two of the four are no strangers to Pittsburghers, who are daily exposed to buildings and programs bearing the names "Heinz" and "Mellon."

Teresa Heinz accepted the award for the descendants of ketchup magnate H.J. Heinz. The Heinz Endowments and Heinz Family Philanthropies have invested in the arts, the environment, health and education, including the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

In 1995, the family made a $20 million gift to establish the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington, D.C. The center was named for Ms. Heinz's first husband, the U.S. senator who died in a 1991 plane crash.

James R. Mellon II accepted the award for descendants of Andrew W. Mellon, a Pittsburgh industrialist and banker who began his family's tradition of philanthropy more than 70 years ago.

The National Gallery of Art and National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., began with the donation of Andrew Mellon's personal collection. His descendants have supported land conservation, the arts and education through a variety of outlets, including Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh-based Richard King Mellon Foundation.

James Mellon yesterday recalled Andrew Carnegie's warning that "the man who dies rich dies disgraced," and said he was loath to accept credit for distributing "surplus wealth." Instead, he thanked those who oversee family foundations, saying their professionalism helps to make the most of the Mellon largesse.

With more than $2 billion in assets, the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundations focus on education, the arts and scientific research. Mr. Broad has made urban education a special priority, helping to train superintendents -- including the Pittsburgh Public Schools' Mark Roosevelt -- and providing millions of dollars to troubled school districts for scholarships and other programs.

Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons, based in Mumbai, India, accepted the award for a family that began supporting science, medicine, health, arts and children's programs in the developing country in the 19th century. The former president of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, presented the award.

Mr. Tata reminded the crowd that a "large majority" of men and women "live below the poverty line, particularly in the part of the world I live in." He said his family was pleased to have helped in a "small way" and would continue its efforts.

At a news conference after the awards ceremony, Mr. Tata and Ms. Heinz said a higher percentage of wealthy people around the world should contribute to philanthropic causes. Mr. Tata said the extra assistance was particularly needed in developing countries, and Ms. Heinz said a spirit of giving should be inculcated in young people, even if they can give only $25 at a time.

"There is power in that," she said.

Mr. Broad made a distinction between charity and philanthropy. Instead of waiting for grant applications, he said, his foundations seek out worthy causes and support those likely to give society a return on the investment.

"We see ourselves as venture philanthropists," he said.

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